Barbaro and Lauren’s Charm

In 2006, William Rhoden of The New York Times wrote an article (5/25/06) contrasting two breakdowns in May of that year. The first, Barbaro, received international attention upon shattering his leg in the Preakness Stakes. Four days later, a nondescript horse named Lauren’s Charm fell (of an apparent heart attack) at Belmont. Rhoden writes:

“THERE was no array of photographers at Belmont Park yesterday, no sobbing in the crowd as a badly injured superstar horse tried to stay erect on three legs. There was no national spotlight. Instead, there was death.”

When Lauren’s Charm collapsed, “no one, except those associated with the horse and two track veterinarians, seemed to notice.” With Barbaro, however, “a national audience gasped; an armada of rescuers rushed to the scene. In the days that followed, as the struggle to keep Barbaro alive took full shape, there was an outpouring of emotion across the country and heartfelt essays about why we care so much about these animals.”


“But I’m not so sure we do, and I’m not so sure the general public fully understands this sport. When people attempt to rationalize the uneasy elements of racing, they often say: ‘That’s part of the business. That’s the game.’ But there was nothing beautiful or gracious or redeeming about the seventh race at Belmont. This was the underside of the business. The nuts-and-bolts part, where animals are expendable parts of a billion-dollar industry.”

Rhoden sets the scene:

“The dead animal was loaded in the ambulance and carted to the track’s stable area, where it was put on its side, legs bent as if it were still running. The horseshoes had not been removed. The carcass was then half carried and half pushed into an area designated for autopsies. An earthmover helped push the horse against a concrete wall.

The gate to the fenced-in area was closed. I glanced back at Lauren’s Charm, lying on the ground. Just days ago, the cameras were trained on Pimlico, and a nation cried for Barbaro. I wonder what the nation would have thought about this.”

He concludes:

“One animal breaks an ankle on national television in a Triple Crown race and sets off a national outpouring of emotion. A 4-year-old collapses and dies in full view on a sunny afternoon and not many seem to notice. Or care. As they say, it’s the business. But what kind of business is this?”

A shameful one.

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  1. Shameful is a perfect word to describe the racing industry. September 1, 2013 – two horses break down and are euthanized on the track at Beulah Park. No one mentions their names except for me – Cajun Brad and Brickyard. Both horses died in the dirt at a very low level track and I’m sure even the track vet will soon forget their names, but I NEVER will. RIP, sweet horses. May you find peace when you cross the Rainbow Bridge. My commitment to these horses is to continue to shine a light on the dirty secrets of the racing industry.

    • Nobody wants to touch this outrageous animal abuse. It seems to fly under the radar. Why ? Well, my guess is it is because of the money. Also, racing is so disorganized in terms of rules and regulations from state to state and from track to track. I believe this is seen as an advantage by the industry because there is no accountability. It reminds me of the “wild west”. It says nothing good about our society. It is a corrupt industry from top to bottom and nobody is held accountable.

  2. Bill Rhoden was spot on. Although I was disgusted and saddened when Barbaro broke down (and his breakdown that day is a story of its own!…why he wasn’t scratched – or vet checked at the very least – after breaking through the gate was nothing short of gross negligence), the attention he received was due to one thing and one thing alone…the “fortune and fame track” the colt was on. Those of us that are personally aware of the horrific suffering unknown horses endure day in and day out at tracks across the country know that Barbaro was just one of MANY. Barbaro didn’t suffer any more than any other horse with shattered bones (although he suffered much longer). The horses Mary named – Cajun Brad and Brickyard – felt pain and suffering just as the celebrated Barbaro did…but no one knew except a few, no one cared except a few, and they became just two more of the nameless, abused, and dead “athletes” of this so-called sport.

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